Charlie in the Box

Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys was one of my top five favorite Christmas shows as a kid. It ranked right up there with the Grinch, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Frosty as must see TV, but watching it as an adult always amazes me - really, could Santa BE any more obnoxious?

I've been picking up the regular action figure line from Playing Mantis each year for the past two Christmas', and you'll see an upcoming review of some of the new figures in that line soon. But tonight I wanted to hit on the deluxe figure this year. Two Christmas' ago we got the huge Bumble (really in scale with the regular line), and last Christmas we got the large stuffed Rudolph. This year it's the talking Charlie in the Box, complete with motion detector.

Charlie says a number of lines when you open him (or simply press the release button once he's already open). He also says a couple appropriate things in room guard mode, and he works as a Jack-in-the-box as well. He retails for right around $30. There are two additional deluxe figures this year - a big, soft talking Santa, and the Ultimate Humble Bumble. This Bumble is again scale to the regular figures, but has no teeth, and comes with his lease and the big Christmas tree.

Packaging - **1/2
The package won't be any surprise to anyone who's bought the previous deluxe offerings. It's open to the world, very basic, and not intended for the MIBer. It works fine as a package, but it's not much to look at.

Sculpting - ****
The sculpting here includes the head, hands, and box itself. Keep in mind that this is a very simple, claymation style cartoon, and that the designs themselves are quite simple, and you'll have to agree that they've done a marvelous job with this toy. He looks just like he did on the show, and he's HUGE! He's two or even three times bigger than any jack-in-the-box I've ever had, and he's a pretty impressive sight.

If there is one complaint, it's that the plastic used on the box is a tad cheap feeling. It's fairly light weight, and I'm a little worried that over time it won't be able to stand up to the repeated use. 

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops follow the sculpts - basic but well executed. I had no problems with over spray, bleed, or poor definition between colors. There aren't a lot of paint ops, since the majority of Charlie is cloth, and the box is entirely two colors. Still, what is here is done cleanly and neatly.

Talking Feature - ***
Charlie says a ton of lines, some when the button is pushed to open the box, and some in response to any activation of his motion detector. In 'room guard' mode, he says: "Who may I as are you?", and "Halt! Who goes there!"

When you press his button, he says: "I'm the official sentry of the Island of Misfit Toys.", "My name is all wrong.", "My name is Charlie, that's why I'm a misfit toy.", "No child wants to play with a Charlie in the Box.", "Santa, look, Rudolph is leading the way!"

There is a decent number of lines, and the classics are all here. The only problem is some have lower quality, probably because they had to come from the soundtrack of the film itself. We've seen that issue before with other talking toys in other licenses, and it's not surprising here.

Outfit/Mechanism - ****
Articulation really isn't the right word for what a jack-in-the-box does, so I'm putting the entire movement and outfit discussion in one group.

The material used for Charlie's hat, collar, and clothing is all high quality, with good stitching. Everything from the soft ruffles at his wrists to the hat on his head uses the best material, and the large fluffy buttons are especially good. The edges of his collar aren't hemmed (and would probably not look right if they were) so that might cause some issues over time, but the material looks sturdy enough to hold up quite awhile.

The little bells around the collar are all metal, and yes, they really do jingle. There's even a wire in his hat to allow you to position it in any way! I didn't take advantage of it in the photos, because I didn't realize it was there at the time, but later I was able to put the hat in an absolutely perfect pose, just like the cartoon.

The springing mechanism is amazingly strong - a kid could lose not just an eye, but his entire head with this thing. It takes a little work to jam poor Charlie down in the box, and I fear that the strong mechanism combined with the plastic closure will end up in problems over time. Once he's in there and the top is closed, a simple push of the button sends him shooting out at blast off speeds.

Value - **1/2
At $30, he's a tad steep, although you'll be shocked by just how big he really is. He's not a terrible value, but he's also not such a great deal that you'll be amazed. Rather, he falls into that gray area in between, where you don't feel ripped off, but you aren't dancing for joy either.

Overall - ***1/2
I hadn't expected this particular deluxe figure to be that exciting, but once I had him in my hands I was pleasantly surprised. He is certainly better in general than either of the previous two deluxe figures, if for no other reason than the expanded vocabulary and the great jack-in-the-box mechanism. Charlie was the most identifiable of the misfit toys, someone we could all relate to, and it's wonderful to see him so accurately  created. In this large scale, it's also more like you have a 'real' part of the show, something the small action figures don't represent quite as well.  If you're looking for a unique and cool Christmas decoration that will get visitors reminiscing, this is the toy for you.

Where to Buy - 
I haven't seen these in stores yet, but I'm betting K-mart and Target, with even a perhaps for Wal-mart, will be getting them in. On-line:

- I got mine from Time and Space Toys, and they have everything Rankin-Bass, including all the new figures, ornaments, blow up characters, etc. etc. etc. There's a link right off the front page to all the new stuff.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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